There are a few takeaways that I have after running this half marathon. It's like the longer I ran, the more wisdom I gained, or something.
TIME TO START HILL TRAINING. YUP.
The first and biggest lesson I learned: if you want to prepare, let alone PR and meet your goal, study the course map and learn what challenges it may bring. I more or less looked at the course map two weeks before my run, confirmed that it had a few hills, looked at other places that I'd run where there were hills to compare the two, and that was it. I didn't prepare for the hills at all and now I'm a convert. It's either train for hills or only run races in Delaware where the land is flat.
RESPECT THE MILEAGE. BE HUMBLE.
I thought that since I'd been running consistently for a few years since my last half marathon, this one would be easier. In many ways, I think it was actually tougher. I thought that since I've run four Broad Streets (10 miles) that in the last four years, those extra three miles would come forth from my legs less like sludge and more like at least an old lady doing power walk laps at the mall. I think it was probably tougher because I had a specific time goal in mind. I also think it was tougher because I went into it semi-injured and didn't know what to expect of myself (side note: my achilles has felt 100% completely fine during and after the race—what the?!) And I think it was probably tougher because I expected it to be easier and it was hard from the get-go. All that mental shit-talking I did to myself did not make the race any easier. 13.1 miles is still a fairly long race to run. I find myself wondering how the full marathoners get to the turn-off point where they keep going or exit for the half and I'm amazed, AMAZED, that anyone runs 26.2 miles and lives to tell about it. I have so much respect for people who run marathons, even if every time I run longer than 10 miles I confirm that they are completely insane for wanting to run 16.2 miles on top of what I just ran. I've been telling my family that if I ever tell them I'm running a marathon they should take me to have my head examined.
FIND A WAY TO STOP SHIT-TALKING YOURSELF WHEN YOU'RE IN THE THICK OF IT.
This one is new for me. I typically don't have this problem during my training runs because I'm able to just lose myself in This American Life or thinking about some design project at work or whatever else. Watching a deer run across the field. People watching. Spotting a blue huron in the woods and taking a break to go stalk it. When I'm racing it's a lot harder to lose myself in the run because I have to be present in order to do my best—or at least that's what it feels like I should be doing. Maybe if I ran races with fewer people, this would be easier. When you're running with a crowd of 30,000 and you have an average pace it's hard to forget that the clock is running. So I'm not sure how to fix this in the future. Maybe I need to do more long training runs to train my brain?
I'm not sure what's up next on the running agenda. It's been four days since the race and I've done a lot of eating and hardly any physical activity save for pilates. But now that I've got my calorie deficit taken care of, I know I definitely want to get back into strength training. I'm going to continue running but cut back to maybe three days a week and pepper in some cross training through the cold, dark days of winter when I can't run outside after work. I don't think I'm going to be able to do Broad Street this year because I won't be in the country (good problem to have). But I think that I've accepted the challenge to come back and do this race again next year and have my ass kicked a little bit less. I'm not sure I will do another half marathon before then—right now I really don't feel the need to. Maybe I'll start looking for some 10K's. Those are going to feel so easy in comparison!